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Limestone business bringing community together through quilting

LIMESTONE, Maine — Quilting Around the Corner, a Limestone business primarily dedicated to providing quilting lessons, held a grand opening on Saturday and donated money raised from quilt raffles and barbecue food sales to benefit the renovation of Albert Michaud Park.

While the business does sell quilting materials, baskets, and a small assortment of crafts, the primary focus is on lessons taught by business owner and veteran quilter Bernadette Sanders.

Born in Ohio to a family with 15 children, Sanders and her siblings were taught the importance of self-sufficiency from an early age and to learn how to do “anything we can on our own.”

“I always loved looking at quilts,” said Sanders, “but I didn’t undertake the endeavor until I had a daughter at 24 years old.”

In her 30 years of quilting, Sanders has created over 500 quilts.

Quilting Around the Corner owner Bernadette Sanders stands in front of a quilt she created in just three days through a streamlined assembly method. (Chris Bouchard)

Always up for a challenge, her first quilt contained “one of the most difficult patterns you could possibly purchase,” and took her three years to complete. During that time, she started several easier quilts. She was “instantly hooked” on quilting and wanted to do as much as possible.

Sanders owned a dairy farm at the time, and made the decision to sell the farm and open a retail quilt store in Ohio five years after she bought that first, challenging quilt pattern.

She eventually had the opportunity to sell the quilting business, and moved to Machias, where she began teaching her neighbors how to quilt.

“I decided to start teaching my neighbors out of my house and it just snowballed,” she said. “One would tell another and I just started doing it on a regular basis.”

The same happened when Sanders later moved to Limestone, where she quickly became known as the town’s best kept secret, according to a member of her quilting guild. She soon began looking for a good location here to open up a business dedicated to teaching local residents the ins and outs of quilting.

Her first choice was a structure attached to Hometown Fuels on Access Highway, just off Main Street, but at the time it housed the Friendly Redemption Center. However, when local residents Brian and Julie Weston purchased the redemption center earlier this year and moved it to their building on Main Street, Sanders jumped on the opportunity to open her business in that old redemption location.

“I took the opportunity to purchase the building this spring,” she said, “and now we have a full service quilting studio that is geared toward learning. It’s not a retail store, but we do have a limited amount of notions (items used in quilting) and a gift shop area.”

She said the business is 90 percent learning, and 10 percent retail.

Sanders has classes for quilters of all experience levels. Basic classes last roughly five hours over the course of one day and are as cheap as $10 while the advanced classes involve five-hour lessons each day for up to five days, and cost $45. Regardless of which class is chosen, quilting students will be able to leave with a quilt they made themselves.

“I want people who don’t know how to quilt, or even turn on a sewing machine, to come here, feel comfortable, and experience the joy of quilting as well as the socialization of a lot of like-minded women and men who are also learning to quilt,” she said.

In addition to classes, Sanders also started a quilting guild which meets at the shop once a month to socialize, discuss quilting, and raise money for the community.

The guild decided to dedicate all the money from the grand opening to the Limestone Recreation Center’s efforts to renovate Albert Michaud Park.

“Several quilters are grandmothers who use that park,” explained Sanders.

Guild members Jo-Ellen Kelley and Kelly Johndro, both of Limestone, attested to the guild’s social and community benefits.

“It brings a group with similar interests together,” said Kelley. “As a group we can make quite an impact whether we give to the playground or to a single person. Last year, for example, we had a day where we all made cookies and gave them to different community members. That’s the sort of thing that I grew up with, and expect in the community, and the guild brings it all full circle. Even though you may be alone at your home, you’re not alone in your community.”

Johndro, who was selling raffle tickets at the door Saturday, said she’s only been quilting for a month, but already enjoys the atmosphere fostered by the quilting shop and its guild.

“I started last month with a pillow case,” she said, “and I’m working on my first quilt.”

She said members of the guild are very much open to community service suggestions, and that they will do what they can to help with any needs in the community.

“You feel very welcomed,” she said, “and very much at home. When I came to make a pillow case there was no apprehension at all. It’s really a wonderful place to be.”

Limestone Economic Development Coordinator Dennis McCartney said he’s been working hard to help Sanders promote the business, noting her exceptional business acumen.

“She’s a very sharp business lady,” said McCartney. “I’ve been around business all my life, and and I’ve been spending time with her and the business because of that.”

He added that the small selection of notions available at the store are designed to last a lifetime and help beginner and expert quilters create a quality product.

“If you don’t use the right needle,” he said, “the sewing machine could bump into it and prevent you from getting a smooth flow and it might lead to an uneven quilt.”

McCartney said the primary focus of the business, however, is that Sanders is selling the training lessons to women who love to quilt.

“This is a labor of love,” he said, “and a hobby. These women love to quilt.”

Sanders was pleased with the grand opening, but said she was more excited about being able to benefit the park in town.

“Even though this is my grand opening,” she said, “my heart is into helping the community.”

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